As a leading investment banking and securities firm that’s among the world’s most respected companies in the finance space, Jefferies has long been aware of the seismic changes the data revolution has created in finance and beyond.
So when the opportunity came to partner with researchers at the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology, the company jumped at the chance.
'Better decisions in real time'
“For every company, of every industry, there is a race to better understand how data analysis can drive better decisions in real time,” said Ramin Safai, managing director, chief technology officer and chief information security officer at Jefferies. “We hope a more structured collaboration with researchers at Stevens helps us to understand even better how data and technology can be used in innovative and creative ways to deliver value to our clients.”
“We hope a more structured collaboration with researchers at Stevens helps us to understand even better how data and technology can be used in innovative and creative ways to deliver value to our clients.”
Under a formal fellowship agreement with Stevens, Jefferies will fund doctoral fellowships, plus internships, for two Ph.D. students in the School of Business, one studying financial engineering and one studying data science. Jefferies will also provide the students historical financial data and guidance about the needs and challenges of the financial industry and the clients the industry serves.
The fact that Stevens has expertise in both disciplines was of crucial importance to Jefferies, said Dr. David Belanger, a senior research fellow at the School of Business who was instrumental in striking the agreement.
“Jefferies explicitly wanted a partner with depth of expertise in both financial engineering and data science, not just one program blending both,” said Dr. Belanger, who was chief scientist at AT&T Labs before coming to Stevens. “And the fact that our students have a track record of working with corporations, and helping them solve some of their problems with data, makes Stevens and Jefferies ideally suited to work together.”
For both organizations, it’s a chance to extend a working relationship that has been beneficial to both sides for some time. Jefferies has hired plenty of Stevens students as interns and for full-time roles; the company also has benefited from teams of students working on data projects as part of capstone course assignments.
What this arrangement offers Jefferies is a more consistent research partner, Dr. Belanger said.
“When our master’s students work on these projects, they generally come up with useful results, but they only have one semester to work with the company,” he said. “The thought process here is that with a Ph.D. student, you could have the continuity to have a faculty member and a student looking at a problem for multiple years.”
Leadership in business intelligence, financial engineering
The Stevens School of Business is a recognized leader in solving complex business problems through the use of data and technology, especially through master’s programs in disciplines like Business Intelligence & Analytics and Financial Engineering. Both programs leverage the Hanlon Financial Systems Center and its two state-of-the-art labs in challenging students to use sophisticated tools to analyze real data in real time.
That data-intensive approach is important to Jefferies, which sees the Stevens focus on better decision-making through analytics as a key differentiator.
“In addition to the research work they’ve done in academia, many Stevens faculty have had careers in industry, giving them unique insights into the needs faced by real companies,” Safai added. “That was an important consideration as we thought about the kinds of opportunities made possible through a collaboration like this.”
Dr. Steve Yang, director of the Ph.D. program in Financial Engineering, said the partnership with Jefferies would help both sides to jointly develop the cutting-edge financial models and become thought leaders in the field.
“Being able to work with real-life data, in real time, and identify new research questions alongside industry experts at Jefferies is an incredible opportunity for the School of Business,” Dr. Yang said. “Our students go on to high-level jobs in finance, where the research they do helps set the course for the company. The ability to work on real problems, challenging problems outside the traditional academic world, will be an incredible benefit to our students.”
“Our research looks at new problems, like those in the deep learning space,” said Dr. Ted Lappas, who also will advise a Ph.D. student through Jefferies’ support. “This is uncharted territory that we can only navigate with real data and domain experts that only a company like Jefferies can provide. Simulations and openly available databases just won’t cut it.”